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Peanuts are one of the world’s most popular nuts and they are rich in vitamins, protein, and fiber. They are one of the most popular types of snack foods, and an unimaginable quantity of them is eaten each year. If you only ever buy bags of peanuts from brands such as KP, you may not know that peanuts actually come in a shell.
When bought from a more direct source, it is typical you will have all of the peanut shells still encasing your peanuts. Some people like to eat the shells, but there are claims that it is bad for your health. So, can you eat the shell of a peanut, and is it unhealthy?
Table of Contents
What are peanut shells?
Peanut shells are a hard and crunchy outer layer that houses the peanut fruit inside them. It is used as a protective barrier to ensure the safety of the peanuts while waiting to be harvested. It grows naturally on the peanut similar to the peel of an orange or the husk of watermelon, however, it is a lot drier and crunchier than either of those. The peanut shell is not as strong and enduring as walnut is, but the shell still provides good protection against bugs, germs, and the outside weather.
What are peanut shells made of?
The nutritional value of a peanut shell is very scarce with the exception of some dietary fiber. The entire list of what is in a peanut shell is as follows;
- 60% crude fiber
- 25% cellulose
- 8% water
- 6% crude protein
- 2% ash
- 1% fat
As you can see, eating a peanut shell together with sunflower seed shells are not going to increase the nutrients in your diet by any means. There is virtually no nutritional value there, and it is not worth the effort of having to chew them a lot more thoroughly than the peanut itself. However, tests done on food to perceive their fiber levels are often lower than what the actual fiber content is, so peanut shells can be a decent source of fiber but are still not as good as eating a piece of fruit instead.
Is it safe to eat peanut shells?
Technically the answer is yes, it is safe. You will not be poisoned or anything bad like that, however, there are some other health concerns that you should take into account when eating peanut shells. Some people claim to have been eating peanuts with the shells still attached for decades without noticing any health risks, while other people eat whole peanuts a few times and start noticing some issues such as digestive issues.
It depends heavily on the person, but the risk is always there. And for the low amount of nutrition they give, it is not worth taking the risk. You would be better off eating solid chips on the side while you enjoy other snacks and peanuts without the shell. Peanut shells can be prepared a number of ways so that they are more enjoyable to eat such as;
- Fried peanut shells
- Cooked peanut shells
- Roasted peanut shells
- Boiled Peanuts
- Deep fried Peanuts
- Dry roasted peanuts
Despite any of these preparation methods, there are still too many risks from eating peanut shells. Peanut shells offer virtually no nutrients and crude fiber is the only redeeming quality it has.
Despite their fiber content, peanut shells can also interfere with your normal digestive function. After eating lots of peanut shells they can accumulate in your gastrointestinal tract. This build-up of foreign matter can cause both stomach distress and constipation as the mass will not be able to pass through the intestines.
This distressing mass is known as a bezoar, which is commonly made of hair and fiber but can be made out of anything as long as it gets stuck in the abdomen. A bezoar can sometimes be so severe that it requires surgery to discard it. This is why it is very important to not consume indigestible materials as it can mess heavily with your digestive system.
When farming peanuts, the farmers do not intend on you eating the shells. So they spray the crops with pesticides to keep them healthy and ensure that they can be sold. This spraying does not harm the nut inside thanks to the shell, but eating the shell also puts you at risk of consuming pesticide chemicals if you are not careful. Crop rotation is also a method of disease prevention that farmers are known to use.
The main issue with peanut farms tends to be a fungal disease which is why the use of pesticides is needed. The fungi that peanuts are vulnerable to is called Aspergillus flavus. Aspergillus parasites are known by any cancer researcher to cause cancer in humans, which is why the pesticide is very crucial. The easiest way to avoid any chemicals from peanuts is to discard the shell as you are expected to by farmers.
Enjoy peanuts and their health benefits
While the shell of the peanut may be filled with indigestible fiber which can lead to possible health risks, the nut inside is full of healthy protein and fiber that will not harm your digestive tract. The consumption of 10g or more a day of nuts can help lower your chances of these diseases;
- Cardiovascular disease
- Respitory conditions
- Neurodegenerative disease
Peanuts are also a great way for people who restrict meat from their diet to have a healthy source of protein.
Alterantives to peanut shells
Assuming you only eat the peanut shells because you like crunching on something, there are many alternatives out there for you. You can try dry roasting the peanuts inside and eating them as they will now be crunchier. You can also try having other snacks on the side such as chips or carrot sticks, which will give you some healthy dietary fiber.
Regular peanuts alone are completely healthy and good to be snacked on, so you can just eat more of them to make up for not eating the shell. Although overconsumption of protein can lead to your stools being harder to pass so eating fruit and veg that help aid digestion can be really important.
Should you keep eating peanut shells?
If you want to eat peanut shells no matter what someone else says, then that is fine. However, the risk of having a bezoar, or having the sharp bits of shells induce cuts on your digestive tract should be enough to prevent some people from eating them. They provide fiber, but not enough of it to be worthwhile. The only thing they are good for is a tiny bit of fiber which can hardly be digested. Peanut shells should be discarded and only the peanut inside should be eaten.